Weekend Box Office (August 28 - 30, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Another August weekend, another new R-rated movie overperforms at number one. This time it was the 3D fright flick The Final Destination which easily won the showdown between new horror sequels soaring ahead of expectations while Halloween II debuted in third grossing about what was expected from it. Holdovers and former chart-toppers Inglourious Basterds and District 9 both held up well making it that rare frame when violent R-rated films claimed the top four spots at the box office. The on-screen carnage drove ticket sales to an all-time high for the weekend before the Labor Day holiday session closing off an exceptionally powerful August box office.

Audiences were in the mood to cheat death as The Final Destination scared its way to a strong top spot debut grossing $27.4M in its first weekend, according to final studio figures. The fourth installment in the nine-year-old franchise attacked 3,121 theaters and averaged a sturdy $8,782 per site bolstered by higher ticket prices from the 3D screens. Just under 1,700 theaters offered the 3D presentation while the remainder screened the 2D version. As with most 3D releases, many multiplexes offered both versions so moviegoers could choose between the extra-dimensional fun or the standard version at the standard price.

It was by far the largest opening ever for the franchise beating the $19.2M bow of Final Destination 3 from February 2006, and the first to reach number one. However, when factoring in today's higher ticket prices and the extra surcharges that 3D venues collected, the new chapter sold about the same number of tickets. Still, it proved that moviegoers are willing to pay more for 3D entertainment and that many genres can benefit from the technology. Final is the fourth 3D film of the year to open atop the charts after kidpics Monsters vs. Aliens, Up, and G-Force. It also beat out the $21.2M debut of January's 3D horror entry My Bloody Valentine.

Also impressive was how well the new Destination did against such formidable competition. Halloween II took away a good portion of the horror crowd and Basterds and District also played to some of the same violence-loving audience. The gruesome foursome combined for a stellar $73M which was equal to what the top dozen films took in during this very same weekend last year. Budgeted at about $40M, The Final Destination will now try to challenge Friday the 13th's $65M to become the top-grossing horror title of 2009. Nine R-rated films have opened at number one this year including four during the last five weeks.

Quentin Tarantino's war fantasy Inglourious Basterds enjoyed a solid second weekend despite the arrival of two new R-rated gorefests. The World War II saga dropped by 49% to $19.3M putting the ten-day total at a robust $73M. The sophomore fall was more like the director's Kill Bill Vol. 1 (44%) than its followup Kill Bill Vol. 2 (59%). Audiences are liking Basterds and good word-of-mouth is helping the theatrical run. Budgeted at $70M, a final domestic haul of roughly $125M seems likely. Overseas moviegoers are also turning out in solid numbers as the film, released by Universal abroad, grossed an estimated $19.4M internationally this weekend boosting the overseas total to $59.1M. That puts the global take at $132M and counting. Worldwide grosses should eventually surpass $250M.

The Weinstein Co. seized third place too with Halloween II which bowed to $16.3M from 3,025 sites. Generating a respectable $5,405 average, the R-rated terrorfest is the sequel to the 2007 reboot of the three-decade-old franchise which launched on the same weekend, but with a much stronger $26.4M over three days. That film bowed in 447 more theaters and had the horror audience all to itself as no other fright flick ranked in the Top 20. Both films were helmed by rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie.

Having another horror sequel to compete with on opening weekend certainly made things messy for Halloween II. However even with large declines in the weeks ahead, it should be a profitable picture given the low production cost of $15M. Audience research showed that 54% of the crowd was under 25 and males and females were evenly split. Expect this one to fade fast as Saturday sales tumbled 26% from Friday's opening day tally. Final Destination held up better dipping only 6% on Saturday.

The cat food-loving aliens of District 9 came in fourth place. Sony's sci-fi hit slipped only 44% to $10.3M raising the cume to an amazing $90.4M after just 17 days. Look for the prawns to smash the $100M mark next weekend.

Leading the films that younger people could buy tickets to was Paramount's G.I. Joe which ranked fifth with $7.7M. Off 37%, the $175M-budgeted action extravaganza lifted its cume to a solid $132.2M. Few thought at the beginning of the summer movie season that Joe would outgun Terminator Salvation but the real American hero has now surpassed the $125.3M of the non-Arnold cyborg sequel.

For the third straight weekend the chick flicks Julie & Julia and The Time Traveler's Wife were chart neighbors, but the former's great legs allowed it to have the upper hand this time. Sony's Meryl Streep hit Julia eased by a slim 20% to $7M with an impressive $70.6M cooked up so far. The $100M mark might now be within reach. Wife dropped by 34% to $6.5M, still a good hold, and has banked $47.9M for Warner Bros. Female audiences not interested in the recent string of ultraviolent releases have been getting their end-of-summer entertainment from this pair.

The Robert Rodriguez-directed kidpic Shorts collected $4.5M in its second weekend. Down only 30%, the Warner Bros. release has raised its ten-day tally to a disappointing $13.2M and should end with roughly $25M.

Bad reviews hurt Oscar winner Ang Lee's latest film Taking Woodstock which debuted poorly in ninth with $3.5M. The R-rated film averaged a weak $2,482 from 1,393 locations and failed to spark any nostalgia with baby boomers.

Bookending the top ten with 3D movies, Disney took in $2.8M for its family actioner G-Force which dropped 31% in its sixth mission lifting the total to $111.8M.

Moviegoers continued to catch up on the summer's biggest blockbusters which witnessed small declines this weekend. Most drops were less than 30% and new totals include $399.4M for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, $294.3M for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $289.6M for Up, $270.2M for The Hangover, $256.7M for Star Trek, $193.3M for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, $176.5M for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and $160.2M for The Proposal.

Making a glamorous premiere in limited release in New York was the fashion industry documentary The September Issue which raked in $220,416 from just six locations for a stunning $36,736 average. Released by Roadside Attractions, the PG-13 pic on legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour attracted mainly positive reviews and will expand to other cities on September 11.

The top ten films grossed $105.3M which was up a stunning 54% from last year when Tropic Thunder remained in the top spot with $11.5M over three days; and up a healthy 15% from 2007 when Halloween opened at number one with $26.4M.

Compared to projections, The Final Destination surged higher than my $20M forecast while Halloween II was somewhat lower than my $19M prediction. Taking Woodstock debuted very near to my $3M projection.

Check the NEW box office charts for this summer's top openings and this year's top blockbusters.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For a review of The Final Destination visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Gamer, Extract, and All About Steve all arrive for the extended Labor Day holiday session.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Aug 28 - 30 Aug 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Final Destination $ 27,408,309 3,121 1 $ 8,782 $ 27,408,309 Warner Bros.
2 Inglourious Basterds 19,303,653 38,054,676 -49.3 3,165 2 6,099 73,022,841 Weinstein Co.
3 Halloween 2 16,349,565 3,025 1 5,405 16,349,565 Weinstein Co.
4 District 9 10,270,435 18,213,546 -43.6 3,180 3 3,230 90,383,712 Sony
5 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra 7,715,572 12,204,927 -36.8 3,467 4 2,225 132,151,954 Paramount
6 Julie & Julia 7,035,675 8,800,674 -20.1 2,503 4 2,811 70,628,063 Sony
7 The Time Traveler's Wife 6,452,270 9,742,427 -33.8 2,961 3 2,179 47,900,418 Warner Bros.
8 Shorts 4,511,345 6,410,339 -29.6 3,105 2 1,453 13,206,697 Warner Bros.
9 Taking Woodstock 3,457,760 1,393 1 2,482 3,478,335 Focus
10 G-Force 2,824,808 4,114,661 -31.3 1,926 6 1,467 111,780,350 Buena Vista
11 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2,466,423 3,478,149 -29.1 1,508 7 1,636 294,258,075 Warner Bros.
12 (500) Days of Summer 2,008,956 2,280,680 -11.9 909 7 2,210 25,203,886 Fox Searchlight
13 Ponyo 1,887,921 2,425,644 -22.2 880 3 2,145 11,033,256 Buena Vista
14 The Ugly Truth 1,587,710 2,774,174 -42.8 1,252 6 1,268 85,747,932 Sony
15 Post Grad 1,467,947 2,651,996 -44.6 1,959 2 749 5,307,922 Fox Searchlight
16 The Hangover 1,340,141 1,474,236 -9.1 801 13 1,673 270,237,753 Warner Bros.
17 The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard 1,188,109 2,710,194 -56.2 1,426 3 833 13,817,928 Paramount
18 The Proposal 664,375 791,387 -16.0 520 11 1,278 160,154,402 Buena Vista
19 Up 649,188 317,602 104.4 392 14 1,656 289,639,811 Buena Vista
20 Transformers: ROTF 575,531 970,360 -40.7 622 10 925 399,416,040 Paramount
Top 5 $ 81,047,534 $ 87,016,250 -6.9
Top 10 105,329,392 106,503,767 -1.1
Top 20 119,165,693 120,818,391 -1.4
Top 20 vs. 2008 119,165,693 88,846,265 34.1

Last Updated: August 31, 2009 at 6:10PM ET